Screenwriting 101: Reid Carolin

July 2nd, 2013 by

screenplay“There’s a magic to being present when you’re actually writing a character. There’s something about the act of giving yourself over and giving your brain over to just typing… If you feel like that character feels, just spit it out and then go back and edit it later.”

— Reid Carolin [[GITS Interview, May 3, 2013]

Interview: Reid Carolin (“Magic Mike”)

May 5th, 2013 by

One of the surprise hit movies of 2012 was Magic Mike starring Channing Tatum, Matthew McConaughey, and Olivia Munn, and directed by Steven Soderbergh. With a modest production budget of $7M, the film grossed $167M worldwide. The screenwriter responsible for the script is Reid Carolin.

 Carolin Final

Here are links to the six installments of the entire interview:

Part 1: “That’s the book [Aristotle's "Poetics"] that, I’ll go back and read that every year, at least, on a plane ride or something.”

Part 2: “It’s a sub‑culture that’s full of people who are risk takers, or ego‑maniacs, or damaged in some way, shape, or form. It is people living on the extreme edge of life, and that always makes for good characters, because they have drive and they believe in something and they are true performers. That inherently is cinematic.”

Part 3: “If you’re smart and intelligent and you have something to say, your movie’s going to find that tone, and you don’t have to whack people over the head with it.”

Part 4: “You’ve got to make a good movie, let the movie stand on its own two feet. But just because it doesn’t test well, doesn’t mean you have to change the movie. You have to realize, did we make a movie that we like? That we think works? And if we did, now let’s figure out how to sell it.”

Part 5: “There’s a magic to being present when you’re actually writing, and just writing a great character. There’s something about the act of giving yourself over and giving your brain over to just typing, just going… If you feel like that character feels, spit it out and then go back and edit it later.”

Part 6: “There isn’t another place in the world, besides Hollywood, that has the platform yet, where you can make a story that travels the world like a movie does, and that reaches as many people as a movie does.”

Please stop by comments to thank Reid and ask any questions you may have.

Reid is repped by UTA.

Twitter: @reidcarolin.

Interview: Reid Carolin (“Magic Mike”) — Part 6

May 4th, 2013 by

One of the surprise hit movies of 2012 was Magic Mike starring Channing Tatum, Matthew McConaughey, and Olivia Munn, and directed by Steven Soderbergh. With a modest production budget of $7M, the film grossed $167M worldwide. The screenwriter responsible for the script is Reid Carolin.

Recently Reid and I had an extensive conversation in which we covered a whole range of subjects including his diverse creative background, the production company he and Channing Tatum have, the stunning success of Magic Mike, the craft of screenwriting, and much more.

In Part 6, Reid talks more about the craft and offers advice about how to break into the business:

Scott:  What about your actual writing process?

Reid:  I’ve done it all. Right now I work at home in this office and I would write every day, eight hours a day, if I could, but I’m on the road a lot. After this I’m heading over to a marketing meeting at Sony to talk about how we’re marketing our movie, “White House Down” this summer. I’m heavily involved in that. As a producer, there are a lot of responsibilities for me that take me away from writing so I have to find the time to do it. It’s always a challenge for me to be more and more committed to it because if we don’t commit it’s really easy to slip. When you’re writing, it’s really easy to just be here and not on the page.

When I’m really focused, like when I was writing “Magic Mike” and I’m not doing anything else, which is, I think, what writers should do if they can. You can write something really quick because you’re home doing it, you know what it is and every day you wake up and you just go. You take a break, you walk around, go for a run, work‑out or whatever, and then you go back to it. It’s relentless and you just don’t stop, in my opinion. Don’t let things get away from you. Don’t let other things into your mind.

Great actors are like that when they act. They are committed to that character when they’re onset. They don’t take phone calls. They don’t sit around and shoot the shit with everybody all the time. They’re committed to that part. I think it’s no different for a writer. I have a tough time doing it just because of the nature of my day.

I like to block out as much time as I possibly can, shut off the phone and just get into a rhythm. I’m always looking ‑‑ I read the stuff that you guys post ‑‑ for just the ways other people get themselves focused. Because that, I think, is the real key in anything.

Just focus. You can’t sit down and go, “OK.” As long as I sit as this computer I’m going to do good work because that’s just not true. You’ve got to find a way to focus your mind on those characters and that story. Usually, for me, I’ll sit down, decide that I’m going to start writing for however much time I have. Whether it be three hours, five hours, a whole day, whatever.

I’ll read pretty much everything that I’ve done in the script, up until that point, or the outline or whatever. Try to find myself talking and acting like those characters, understanding who they are, what they want. Then just start the next scene. Go, “What do they want here? What are they doing?” Then just try something on for size. Try it out.

Then usually, by the end of the day, I’m going back and editing out some stuff that I’ve done, cutting things, looking at certain scenes and going, “OK. This isn’t going to work. I’ll take this out.” Or whatever. During the day I’m just blah, putting stuff onto the page. At the last part of the day I’m going back and trying to figure out, what did I do?

What’s working and not working? And set myself up for the next time I sit down and get back into it. It’s a pretty unruly process, doesn’t really have much order to it. But I’m going to try to regiment it more, as I go, so I cannot become completely lost, which… I don’t know how much it happens to other writers. But for me, if I’m really in something I could be gone for three, four weeks of just gone to the world.

I’ve heard Billy Ray and some other folks talk about how they regiment their writing process and I always admire that. I want to figure out ways to do that for myself. So I’m not completely out to lunch, disappeared from the world, and I can still feel like I’m living my life and writing.

Scott:  Here’s a fun question. What’s your single best excuse not to write?

Reid:  Oh, God. I have so many. That’s the thing. My single best excuse not to write… ESPN.com. [laughs] That’s always a really good excuse…just checking out…the Internet is the worst thing that ever happened to writers. Because now we’re writing on computers, and they’re connected to the Internet. If you know it’s there, you just can’t turn it off, and there’s just so much to read, and so much to learn. It’s like this constant source of distraction. So yeah, particularly ESPN.com, for me, is a terrible distraction.

But I don’t know, there’s always distraction…I play guitar, and I’m always…I’ve got it sitting right here, and I’ll take two hours every day, and just be like, screw it, I’m just going to play for a little while. That’s a good one, always.

Then, also, talking on the phone because I’m always getting a call from somebody about some project that I’m working on. That really is like the biggest single distraction for me, because I’m juggling being a producer, and being a writer and running a company for an actor. It’s like there’s always somebody to talk to about something we’ve got going on, and that takes up days of time.

Scott:  What do you love most about writing?

Reid:  Honestly, I just love the process of creating anything. Writing is great because if you love stories, and you know how much stories have affected people, and you are somebody that…like for me stories are everything. I love telling them, I love hearing them from other people. I love the way that a well told story can move you, and change the way that you think about life. I think…and then change the way that you make decisions in your life. I think there’s a great responsibility, for storytellers to do good work. That’s at least how I feel. I feel like great stories are necessary things for our culture, that can move culture, almost more than politics can.

I do believe that a great story has so much power, that it’s almost impossible to measure. I do feel like being a writer is a great opportunity to tell those types of stories, to get better at your craft, to work with certain people, who make you better at your craft, and to try to create things that move culture forward, and that awe people, and move people, and make them laugh, and cry, and all that sort…

That, I think, is such a great opportunity. So to be a writer ‑‑ a screenwriter in particular ‑‑ that has the opportunity to work on those sorts of things, I just love the fact that we have that ability. Because, really, there isn’t another place in the world, besides Hollywood, that has the platform yet, where you can make a story that travels the world like a movie does, and that reaches as many people as a movie does.

I do think it’s just a really wonderful opportunity that I’ve been afforded. As far as the process itself, I like it because I like creating anything. Whether I was working on car engines, or whether I was playing music, or building houses, or whatever…If you’re at the core of the creation process, I think that’s when it’s really fun.

If you’re carrying out somebody’s creation…For me, I’m not so good at that. I’m not good at like, getting instructions, even if it’s an IKEA chair, or something. Going like…how do I assemble this chair? I get bored…I don’t like it. I’m not actually good at it.

Other people assemble IKEA chairs better than I do, for some odd reason…I have no idea why. But I think if you’re at the beginning of a creative process, then you really have the ability to put your sense of design, and your values, and express yourself, as a human being, through the entirety of the process of your labor.

No matter if somebody else takes it, and changes it, there’s still something about what you originally intended in there. I like being at the beginning of any creative process, and writers seem to have a lot left over in the end. I don’t know if maybe being an architect, or something like that, there might be more left of that original design in the house.

But a writer…There’s a lot of you left in that finished product, so I love that chance to do that. Maybe someday I’ll write a book, but I don’t know if I’m there yet. I don’t know if I’m good enough to do that [laughs] yet.

Scott:  One last question: What advice can you offer to aspiring screenwriters about the learning the craft and breaking into Hollywood?

Reid:  I’m always a big fan of don’t take no for an answer, believe in yourself, and do work for work’s sake. Those are very general things, but I believe in this idea that if you want to see something done, you have to will it to be done, and you have to have this machine inside yourself to go…OK, nobody else believes that this type of thing can be made.

But I’m going to do that somehow, someway. Whether it’s with 50 grand, or whether I’m going to go and bang on doors to try to get 10 million, or whatever it is. I think that’s the first, most important thing, is just to believe in yourself enough to not listen to no’s, and to reasons why you shouldn’t do something.

Because there’s always, in Hollywood, a reason why you shouldn’t move forward, and a reason why it’s not good enough, and a reason why somebody won’t take a meeting. If you don’t have that, I don’t know how you’d get anywhere without just luck.

The next thing, is that I think you need to be open. You need to be open to a good idea, when you hear one. You need to be open to somebody coming in, and maybe changing the way you thought you were going to make your thing…whatever this is that you were trying to create. But understanding that this may be a good opportunity to get it done in some way, and so adapting it to be made.

A lot of people I know are so stubborn about how they want to make something, that it almost becomes a self fulfilling prophecy, that nobody wants to collaborate with you, and nobody wants to help you, because you don’t want to listen…you don’t want to let more people in. I think being open is really important.

I really think, in an age where craft has become superficially, somehow, less important than special effects or some commercial high concept idea, or whatever, I think it’s really important to focus on your craft and being good at it and knowing it better than those around you. Because if you do that, people will recognize it over time and good work will always stand out.

Even if it’s not rewarded with high dollar signs or big spec sales or something like that right away, you will, over the course of time of doing good work, be able to make a career out of it and people in Hollywood will value it. Because they know when somebody who’s good and knows their shit comes around.

They know that they’re going to be seeing that person as somebody who is riding on a great idea but doesn’t know anything about how to structure a screen play or how to build a character. I think it’s important to be craftspeople and think of your job as if you were a mechanic or someone like that.

If you don’t know how to fix an engine, you would never get a job in a garage. It is the exact same in Hollywood. It should be, I would just say, treated as a blue‑collar business. It’s a marathon and try to make good work and people will recognize it.

If there’s anything else, politics is important. That doesn’t mean to be sleazy and shamelessly network and stuff like that all the time. It does mean get to know people. No job is beneath you. If you need to read scripts for free for somebody for a while, in order to develop a relationship with somebody that you respect and will learn from them, do it.

Don’t feel because you have a couple degrees that you’re overqualified for being a gofer or whatever. It can be a path to what you want, as long as you see it that way and you know where you’re going. You can meet people, as I did along the way who become your greatest advocates and friends and supporters. That would be my advice.

For Part 1, go here.

For Part 2, go here.

For Part 3, go here.

For Part 4, go here.

For Part 5, go here.

Please stop by comments to thank Reid and ask any questions you may have.

Reid is repped by UTA.

Twitter: @reidcarolin.

Interview: Reid Carolin (“Magic Mike”) — Part 5

May 3rd, 2013 by

One of the surprise hit movies of 2012 was Magic Mike starring Channing Tatum, Matthew McConaughey, and Olivia Munn, and directed by Steven Soderbergh. With a modest production budget of $7M, the film grossed $167M worldwide. The screenwriter responsible for the script is Reid Carolin.

Recently Reid and I had an extensive conversation in which we covered a whole range of subjects including his diverse creative background, the production company he and Channing Tatum have, the stunning success of Magic Mike, the craft of screenwriting, and much more.

In Part 5, Reid digs into some key aspects of the screenwriting craft:

Scott:  Let’s hit some craft questions. How do you come up with story ideas?

Reid:  For me, it’s usually from just real life. It’s just from reading a story about somebody or something that gets you on to…I think Steven says all the time that he doesn’t understand how people can get bored or they can run out of ideas? I agree with him. I think there’s so many things that interest you and then you have to cull that list down to something that really means something to you and find a reason to develop it and make it stick, because there’s a lot of great little ideas out there.

There’s not a lot of great zeitgeist lightening in a bottle type ideas but I think there are a lot of great story ideas out there. And then you have to decide how to develop them into something that can really resonate, as opposed to something simplistic and overly serving a genre trope or whatever.

So for us, it’s usually just looking at our lives and people we know and stories that we read and finding something that we don’t think has really been done before in a certain way. And then we’ve been wanting to get into sci‑fi and all that sort of stuff. And you always have to start from some simple idea that you really gravitate to. Or just a nugget of truth that comes along and you go, “Oh. That’s really cool. Why don’t I develop a world around that?”

So, as far as original ideas are concerned, that’s the overly general idea of how we come up with them and then obviously we’re always after good material and books and stuff like that. And we’re constantly optioning things that we think are good ideas and hopefully some of them become good in their execution as well.

Scott:  How about prep writing — brainstorming, character development, plotting, research, outlining? How much time do you spend on that and what do you focus on?

Reid:  I used to do a lot more and now I’m doing a lot less. I like to write a lot, and I love writing free hand. I love sitting down and just writing a bunch of just stream of consciousness and trying to craft a narrative out of nowhere. I think it’s almost like meditating. You sit down and you just work. You just put your hands to the keys and go and not care about who’s reading it or where it’s going to go or what’s going to happen. I think it’s important to just be in the process of writing.

I used to outline things until I was blue in the face and I’m trying to stop doing it as much. I want to see how that turns out. But what I notice is that the broad strokes of an outline, for me, are really important. I always need to know. I do use the whole three act thing because I do believe in it, but I hate trying to make people feel like they have to work in a box.

But I like knowing essentially what is a character’s status quo. Who are they at the beginning? What is the inciting incident that set’s the story in motion? What is their first act choice that they can’t go back from? What are the arising consequences of the middle of the movie where things are getting stacked against them? And what is the ultimate climax where the character learns something and their life is changed.

I do like thinking of…OK, if we’re making a movie and it’s going to be 90 minutes or whatever what is that basic box of the movie because I don’t want to make a crappy movie. I want to make something that people are entertained by. And I want to know, generally speaking, what we’re talking about there.

But the nuance within that, it’s really hard because when you’re outlining you’re not writing a character in the present tense. And a lot of the great stuff that was written in “Magic Mike” just came out of just like sitting down and like writing. You cannot preconceive the nuance and the little organic moments that happen in a movie that really, ultimately, define why people love certain characters like Dallas.

Dallas was made. I knew who he was and I knew the type of guy he was in the outlining phase but I could never have outlined that dialogue and that personality and the stuff that Matt does in the movie. That all had to come out of just knowing the basic bones of the movie and then just going and sitting at final draft and just trying things out.

So I think there’s probably an extra 60‑70 pages of stuff that didn’t make the movie. That happens on everything, and I’d rather be doing that then I would, like slogging in Microsoft Excel, going “OK, and in this scene Dallas does this and this and this”.

It’s also a hard thing when you give that to somebody, then they give you notes back on that. And you’re trying to communicate “Hey, this is going to be cool”. But if somebody reads it in outline form and they don’t think it’s cool then they go “No, don’t do that”, and the idea is already killed.

So as a producer I’m always thinking ahead about that and going, I don’t really want to show people a really detailed outline because I just want to show them what I think the basic movie is. And then I’ll show them the scenes when they’re written and they’ll like them better than if they just read an outline and said “OK. Why is everybody at Dallas’s beach house for a hurricane party? I don’t get it. What’s going on?” And you’ve got to show them on the page why that’s funny and cool, because sometimes in an outline form it’s just too dry.

So I still am anal retentive about preparing to write and it takes me more time to prepare to start writing then it does to write itself. But I want to lessen that, to be honest. I want to be more into just the writing because I think that’s where the magic is.

Scott:  You know when you say magic, I tell my students writing a screenplay is like wrangling magic.

Reid:  Yeah. It is.

Scott:  The subtext of what you just said I was taking as you really are attracted to, interested in, and engaged by the characters in your story.

Reid:  Yeah, because I’m a total structure person. Channing’s a very present person. He is in the moment and he is feeling‑‑as any good actor should be, they’re feeling a character out. They’re reacting in the moment to things. They’re making choices in the present tense. For me, as a writer, you sit in a vacuum, and you create something that people are going to do and work on in the future, you’re thinking through everything so much. But the scenes that I thought through completely, that feel like they’re preconceived, they work as far as the beats are concerned, but they’re usually the driest, most uninteresting scenes in the movie when it’s finally made.

There’s a magic to being present when you’re actually writing, and just writing a great character. There’s just something about the act of giving yourself over and giving your brain over to just typing, just going, just coming up with what…If you feel like that character feels, just spit it out and then go back and edit it later.

If you’re trying to think through everything, you’re trying to hit every beat, you write like molasses and at the same time, the finished product feels like the act of how you wrote it, in my opinion. Things tend to feel like the way in which they were constructed, and you want your characters to feel present, so be present when you write them as much as you possibly can. Which is my, I guess, advice.

Scott:  What about dialogue? Is that a talent that writers are born with, or you think that can be developed?

Reid:  Oh, no. No. Because everybody has a different sense of what dialogue is. I’m doing a rewrite for a director right now, and he basically said to me the other day, “Look, I love a lot of this dialogue. I have other ways that I would say this, so I’ll go in there and do this.” And I’m, “Of course.” You know? Everybody’s got a different sense of how they interpret dialogue, so I look at dialogue, and I go, “Look, it’s easy to judge that before the movie’s made when you’re just reading scripts and kind of judging them. But the movie always ends up being a reflection of the director and the actors and all sort of stuff.”

The dialogue is just there to service the writer’s interpretation of the character. And sometimes the writer writes such rich dialogue that everybody looks at it and goes, “Uh. That’s exactly what I’d want to say.” And that doesn’t happen all the time.

Then there’s different reasons why. If a writer’s a huge writer that everybody thinks is a genius, their dialogue is more likely to be…You watch an Aaron Sorkin…you watch “The Newsroom” or something, and everybody loves Aaron’s work. They are going to say exactly what he’s written, and he’s so good with dialogue that it doesn’t get changed.

But if he was a young writer, and nobody knew who he was, I don’t think any director would let scenes go on for that long with people talking like…There’s tons of reasons why dialogue gets manifested onto the screen. And I don’t think as a writer you can completely control how people perceive it, or if it’s going to work or if it’s not. You just have to do the best you can.

Some people are born with, I think, a sense of language that may be richer than others, but nobody knows exactly how everybody talks.

That’s just a subjective thing. I wouldn’t discourage anybody by saying, some people have it, some people don’t. Everybody has something to say, everybody knows certain characters in ways that other people don’t, and that’s why some directors who have been writers are so good at dialogue.

I watch David Russell’s movies and think, “God. Where does he come up with some of this stuff?” David knows who those characters he’s writing about are, and he knows how to write them because he’s lived them.

Think about it you’re writing about CIA agents all the time, and you haven’t been in the CIA, you know? Most writers haven’t been in the CIA, and that’s why those movies, typically speaking, rely on tropes.

If you create a guy like Dallas, all I had to do was really listen to Channing, who knew who that person was, and transcribe some of it, and then build on top of it. And people go, “God, the dialogue to that character is so great”! But I would never have been able to write that had I not gone and listened and participated in the world of that character.

I think if you don’t have good dialogue in a script or dialogue that you’re happy with, you should go out and just find yourself in that world and listen. All you really then have to do is just repeat it, repeat what you hear. [laughs]

Scott:  When you finish a first draft and you’re faced with rewriting, what are some of the keys for you in terms of what you’re looking to do in the rewriting process?

Reid:  First of all, have the courage to go back and re‑imagine things that you thought were unchangeable. I think that rewriting is a really nerve racking process and you’ve got to keep yourself open to people’s ideas and to the fact that things that you really love may not work. I don’t know if people know how hard that is. It’s easy to talk about, “That’s a tough mental process to go through,” but to me, it’s the toughest part of writing a script, is going back and re‑conceiving things that you thought were going to be pillars of your movie. First, I think it’s about keeping yourself open and having the courage to go in there and not be afraid to make drastic change.

Then B, is knowing, because nobody really is going to know the gears of the movie if you really conceive the structure correctly. Nobody is really going to know those like you. If they want to go and push over a domino, they may not be thinking about the other things that it knocks down. They’ll say, “Hey, you need to do this,” and you go like, in your mind, “OK, now I know I have to do that but I know that that’s not going to change 15 other scenes. They’re not even recognizing that.”

Now, I have to go back in and do that because I know I’ll turn the draft back in if I don’t do that they’re going to go “Oh shit, now all this other stuff doesn’t work.” As a writer you have the responsibility of keeping the gears of the script in your head and understanding when you’re doing a rewrite that if you change one thing, you’ve got to change the rest of it.

Every little thing that you do to a character has repercussions and ripples across an entire narrative, and if you don’t address the ripples, you’re hurting the movie. Rewriting, I think, really takes a lot of commitment and some people go, “Yeah, just rewrite it. Just take a week, like rewrite it.” I think if you’re going to do a substantial re‑write, it really takes understanding the nuance, and the affect of every change that you make. Being committed to doing all of it.

The studio will go “Hey, just reset the whole thing in Chicago. No problem, just change the scene headings.” I’m like “Now people need to talk like they’re in Chicago. They need to address things that are in Chicago. They need to act completely different because they’re in a big city.” You can’t just make a simple change here, or there to something as sensitive as a script, in my mind.

Scott:  It’s a story universe you’ve created, and I love that image that you had. You can’t just drop the pebble in, you’ve got to check all the ripples of those changes.

Reid:  You absolutely do. Some are so small, that by the end of the ripple, you almost wouldn’t even know they’re there, but they are, and when a movie is finally put up in front of an audience, a great movie is one that the ripple carries all the way out to the end. To the point you can’t see anymore. You can feel that as an audience member. You know when you’re in the presence of people that have conceived something so well, that it fills its whole possible spectrum. That pebble spreads out in all directions perfectly. If it doesn’t, you know that it’s fake, and it’s forced, and it’s not working correctly. It’s impossible as a writer to control that, because your work is always in the hands of someone else.

If you look at the page as your ultimate measure of success, you can do it on the page. It is possible to write a perfect movie on the page. For any writer that should be the goal. Hopefully though you can control the process of actually then getting it made, which is a whole other thing, and that’s the reason why I love being a producer because I have some, which I think most writers should try to be producers.

Because it really sucks to work on something for a year plus and then do something really well and have it hit the whims of other people and their politics. That’s no fun.

Tomorrow in Part 6, Reid talks more about the craft and offers advice about how to break into the business.

For Part 1, go here.

For Part 2, go here.

For Part 3, go here.

For Part 4, go here.

Please stop by comments to thank Reid and ask any questions you may have.

Reid is repped by UTA.

Twitter: @reidcarolin.

Interview: Reid Carolin (“Magic Mike”) — Part 4

May 2nd, 2013 by

One of the surprise hit movies of 2012 was Magic Mike starring Channing Tatum, Matthew McConaughey, and Olivia Munn, and directed by Steven Soderbergh. With a modest production budget of $7M, the film grossed $167M worldwide. The screenwriter responsible for the script is Reid Carolin.

Recently Reid and I had an extensive conversation in which we covered a whole range of subjects including his diverse creative background, the production company he and Channing Tatum have, the stunning success of Magic Mike, the craft of screenwriting, and much more.

In Part 4, Reid talks about the remarkable success of Magic Mike and its possible sequel:

Scott:  The film has a documentary style feel to it.

Reid:  Yeah.

Scott:  Was that Soderbergh’s vision, or is that something you and Channing had an idea about early on?

Reid:  That’s Steven. When we wrote it we wanted it to feel like a Hal Ashby movie, or like Saturday Night Fever. Those movies have this kind of…I call it a ’70s movie feel. But where you just got your buddies, and you had a script about real people, in a real world, and you just set up the camera and filmed it, and you saw what came out.

You hit the certain buttons that you needed to hit, but the movie evolved as a present tense thing. I think that’s what Steven did. He committed to making a movie in the present tense.

He would walk into a scene, decide how he wanted to set up the camera, tell the actors to go do their thing, and he’d let the takes go on. He’d let them find out what the scene was. He wasn’t ever manipulating the scene too much.

I think that’s his brilliance and that’s why his movies, a lot of them, feel that way. “Side Effects” is much more crafted than “Magic Mike,” because he’s deliberately making a thriller, and in our movie, I think he was deliberately trying to let this world come to life. He really wanted you to feel like you were in that dressing room with these guys just hanging out. I think that’s the way he decided to shoot it. Everything is in these wides. There’s not a lot of cuts. It really does feel like a doc in some ways.

Scott:   I’m guessing there was a lot of improvisation on set.

Reid:  There was. There was a lot. Funny enough, most of the stuff is pretty scripted, most of the scenes almost exactly follow the beats of the script and the general pieces of dialogue. It’s that everybody, especially Channing and Matthew, just put a layer on top of it. There’ll be a line in the script that’s the first quarter of something that Matthew said, and then he just goes off with it, because he totally knew who that character was, and the same thing with Channing. Most of it, it’s not like we’ve walked in and said, “All right, hey, guys, you’re in the dressing room. Just start talking to each other, and Mike, come in and say a line here.” Most of that was pretty structured out, what everybody was doing and saying. But everybody brought something extra. It wasn’t like we just truly improvised everything, but it was really loose.

On the day, it would just be like, “Who knows whether we’re going to be on script today or not? I have no idea.” It just depends on if Matthew is feeling these lines or not. Otherwise, if he’s got a whole other concept of what Dallas is going to say to the audience today, he should just say that. Because he knows the part better than I do. He knows the part better than Steven. We had actors who knew who their characters better than any of us could have.

Scott:  It sounds like, then, that you’re pretty adept at wearing the writer’s hat and the producer’s hat.

Reid:  Yeah. Look, I saw this quote from Aaron Sorkin, where he said, “I don’t ever want a director or an actor to change a word from the script because…” I don’t know why. I forget the justification that he used to say it. But I saw the quote, and I thought, I’m sure there’s a world where as a writer, you feel like “I’ve slaved over this, and this is a piece of art.” Every time you move away from it, it’s like a domino falling in the opposite direction and it’s not knocking down the next one, and all of a sudden, the whole thing feels out of whack. I can understand how that feels.

I really don’t think it’s the right way to make a movie. I really think you have to know what the big dominoes are, and those are the things that are going to fall in order to make a complete story, and you think of that before you go.

But really, you’ve got to be committed to the fact that you’ve now brought all these other artists on, and you’re going to treat them as what they are. Which is they are all artists in some way, shape or form, and they all have something to bring to it. They all have personal experiences that can reshape their parts and what they’re going to say.

You have to be present and let them show you how your preconceived thing is going to evolve. The movies that are done that way, I tend to think I like a little bit more. As a producer, it makes it easier, even though you’re having to deal with all of these people. I really don’t like having to do the whole, “Stay on the script,” saying, “We’ve already got the movie pre-made in our heads, now let’s go on set and just execute it.”

I don’t like those movies, I don’t like the way that they feel. I know what those movies are, and they feel like they’re conceived in a boardroom, and then they’re just executed by those who worked on them, and I don’t like those.

Scott:  Are you surprised at the box office that Magic Mike has generated?

Reid:  Completely. I mean we all kind of knew when we were making it, that even though a lot of people said, “What are you doing?” and “This is not going to work.” We all kind of knew we were onto something, because sometimes you know when you’re making it, you just know. We’re onto something that is special, and we’re onto something that people will want to talk about and they want to share, they want to know about. Whether or not traditional movie people think it’s right, regular people are interested, and the stuff that we were shooting was shining.

But for it to open to $40 million dollars, no. I mean, we knew when it was opening, that traditional tracking was saying high teens or mid teens or something like that. We also looked at the Internet and saw that we were generating more buzz than The Dark Knight.

We just said, “We have no idea, but we’re going to bet on this thing, we’re going to believe in it.” One of our producers, Nick Wechsler, I think is the only one who from the beginning to the end said, “This is going to do huge business,” and he never wavered from that.

One of the reasons why I love Nick, is when he believes in something, he believes. All of us said, “Who the hell knows. I don’t know. Did we make a good movie? Did we make a move that people won’t like?” We didn’t test very well, we tested at a 52 on that movie.

Scott:  Seriously, a 52?

Reid:  Yeah, or something. It was the low 50s. We walked out of the screening with Warner Brothers and everybody, and we literally felt depressed, because we were like, “The movie played well, why did it test at a 52? I don’t get this.” But some of the greatest movies of all time have tested in the 50s. Steven was smart enough just to know, “OK, I have to change some things, but don’t let this make me overhaul the entire movie.” Because we had a broad audience, we were in a big theater. It wasn’t a girl’s night out thing. It really helps you realize, it’s all about how you package and sell something these days.

You’ve got to make a good movie, let the movie stand on its own two feet. But just because it doesn’t test well, doesn’t mean you have to change the movie. You have to realize, did we make a movie that we like? That we think works? And if we did, now let’s figure out how to sell it.

That’s what Sue Kroll, Warner Brother’s President of Marketing was an absolute genius with. She understood who our audience was and how to get to them, and so did Channing. The two of them, I think, just crafted a great campaign, and that I think is the reason why we did the business that we did.

Scott:  Now you’re on the cusp of sequel world. Is that going to happen?

Reid:  [laughs] I’m not writing it yet, but I have made an outline and we are moving forward. I can’t tell you exactly when or exactly who and how it’s going to be done, but we’re going to do it. I’m 99 percent positive we’ll be doing it very soon.

Tomorrow in Part 5, Reid digs into some key aspects of the screenwriting craft.

For Part 1, go here.

For Part 2, go here.

For Part 3, go here.

Please stop by comments to thank Reid and ask any questions you may have.

Reid is repped by UTA.

Twitter: @reidcarolin.

Interview: Reid Carolin (“Magic Mike”) — Part 3

May 1st, 2013 by

One of the surprise hit movies of 2012 was Magic Mike starring Channing Tatum, Matthew McConaughey, and Olivia Munn, and directed by Steven Soderbergh. With a modest production budget of $7M, the film grossed $167M worldwide. The screenwriter responsible for the script is Reid Carolin.

Recently Reid and I had an extensive conversation in which we covered a whole range of subjects including his diverse creative background, the production company he and Channing Tatum have, the stunning success of Magic Mike, the craft of screenwriting, and much more.

In Part 3, Reid goes into more depth about the creative process on the movie Magic Mike:

Scott:  You mentioned Adam’s sister, Brooke, played by Cody Horn. She seems to represent a polar opposite approach to life to Mike. Mike’s a stripper who lets it all hang out. She’s buttoned‑up and plays it close to the vest. He’s an entrepreneur and she’s got a steady job. He parties down. She doesn’t. What was your thinking in crafting Brooke’s character?

Reid:  We wanted somebody in the movie for Mike to look at and go, “That’s the type of person that I want to be. I want to hold down the fort. I want to be a good person. I want to be an honest person. I want to be somebody that says what he means and means what he says.” I think Brooke doesn’t even, really, look down on the stripping or anything, I just think she sees Mike and that world for what it is. She sees through the bullshit she’s talking about, about his life and where it’s going. Because she’s living that tough life and she is just eeking out money for her mortgage and trying to set up a future for herself.

She’s looking for love and not getting it, but she’s looking for it in an honest way, and Mike is not. I think she sees right through who he really is and he can feel that in a way. It’s just intuitive sometimes, when you meet somebody and you know you’re projecting onto them like, “This is the person that I’d want to be with. This kind of person would be somebody that I could have if I was leading the life that I wanted to lead.

Mike’s really a guy who’s looking for love. He’s looking to be loved. He’s looking to prove himself as somebody that deserves it and he’s not getting it because everyone sees him as a sex object.

It’s really the traditional trope of a female in emotional crisis. Somebody who is putting themselves out there and trying to find somebody that sees them for who they really are, accepts them for who they really are, their faults and everything like that. They’re really just being accepted as a sex symbol. We wanted to switch that paradigm and give that to a guy. If they’re a stripper, that’s the perfect thing, because your job is to be appreciated as a sex symbol.

That’s your incentive to keep making people see you in that way. You can’t just switch that overnight. You can’t just say, “Hey. Treat me differently.” You have to get out of that circle and meet the right person and behave the right way.

For Mike, you want it to be the type of character to tweak him and go, “Shit. I can’t get there. I can’t have that, unless I wake up and start being honest to her and myself, because every time I lie or every time I pretend to be somebody else, she’s not going to accept me.” It’s really her job to shut him down over and over, until he comes to her at the end and says, “I’m ready to be a friend and to be honest.” I think that’s kind of the idea.

Scott:  That relationship is one of the most interesting ones in the movie. It is a romance story. Early on that he’s obviously interested in her. You pick up at some point where she starts to be a little interested in him. The interesting thing that you do there is you basically withhold that revelation of mutual interest until the very end. I think the last image in the movie is the quick kiss she gives him.

Reid:  That’s it. Yeah.

Scott:  In that respect, is it fair to say it’s a non‑traditional romance story?

Reid:  Totally. I think there are truths about it. There’s lots of existing paradigms that it’s written from. I don’t think we were working from total scratch. I think it is a little non‑traditional for a love story for someone to be shut down for an entire, basically, three acts of story. The last act we’re going to be, “OK. They’re going to get together.” That’s why I think the movie has this other thrust of Mike bringing Adam into this world and training him. As he goes deeper into the rabbit hole, that’s on Mike’s conscience, because he’s made this promise to Brooke to look after Adam.

You’ve got this whole other architecture going on. You have the freedom to develop that love story, not in the background, but as more of a B story. I think if that was completely the A story of the movie, I think you’d have to play with it a little bit more. I don’t know if you’d be able to do it the way that we did it that way.

Scott:  We haven’t talked about Dallas, who’s this hugely entertaining character played by Matthew McConaughey, the owner of the strip club, just this over‑the‑top provocateur. He’s almost like an evangelist.

Reid: He is, that’s exactly what he is. He prosthelytizing you.

Scott:  That’s funny you say that, because I turned to my wife the other night after seeing the movie again, I said, “Dallas is like a prophet for profits.”

Reid:  Yes! This is his church. That truly is how it was written, and I wrote it for Matthew, in my mind, before he was even cast. Chan and I sat down, Steven had some ideas about folks who might be right for the part before we even wrote it. We said we think Matthew would be perfect. He’s like, “That’s a great idea. I don’t know if he’d do it. Just keep sort of thinking about that and I can reach out to him.” I just started writing it for him, in my mind anyway. On the page, he’s using speech that I’ve heard Matthew use before. That’s unique to him, so I really was hoping that Steven could get him to say yes. Which he did without even reading the script, because I knew I was going to write it for him anyway.

Scott:  Just thinking on that, you mentioned the word “populist” earlier, and the Dallas character has this evangelical zeal about capitalism. Is there something larger or broader going on there consciously on your part with “Magic Mike” about the American dream, selling one’s hope for success, about success being making money?

Reid:  Yeah. Steven was really good about saying, “Look. Don’t try to put anything between the lines here. That will reveal itself.” He did a really good job of not making the movie so on the nose about that. For me, as the writer, that was the thing that I was most interested in about the world. It’s just about how in Florida you can make a buck. No matter how you make it, that’s OK. To me, that’s the reason why we’re in this financial crisis. The idea of making money for money’s sake is more important than how you’re making that money. That is what’s stripping is. Channing got into stripping after he was cold‑calling and selling shitty mortgages to people who could barely pay for them.

Roofing or anything, just doing these temporary jobs in a temporary world where this house gets built overnight, shoddily, sold to somebody then resold to somebody else with some other janky mortgage. Everything’s flipped all the time. Nothing is permanent in that world. It’s all about today and not about tomorrow. That’s the world that was so interesting to me.

I wanted to have this micro‑story about a guy who was looking at his life like he’s a kid in a candy store. He can just take whatever the hell he wants and just make money however he wants. There’s just going to be no consequence to it. One day you realize, “if I’m going to ever make anything of myself, I’ve got to wake up.”

That was the story of America, during the time that we set this movie. We just thought, “Hey. Sell whatever we want. Do whatever we want. The economy’s growing. Let’s just keep making money and flipping things and selling derivatives, even though we don’t really understand exactly what they are.” Then, one day, of course, you find out, “Oh shit. All that crap that we made, now people realize it’s crap. We have to pay for that. We have to wake up and do something about it.” For me, that was the metaphor.

Scott:  Hitting that balance is key because so often themes like that can achieve a heaviness, a weight that really just crush the entertainment. But with “Magic Mike,” the mass populous responded to it as an entertaining, fun drama-comedy, yet if you go away and think about it, there’s some stuff going on underneath.

Reid:  Yes. I think the genius of Steven is that he doesn’t want to hit you over the head with…I mean, he’s made a lot of topical movies, but he believes in a narrative that works. Whether it’s a genre narrative or whether it’s a straight‑up drama, or a comedy, or whatever. It could be a TV movie, a movie of the week. He believes that as long as you treat it the right way stylistically, and you let the actors do what they’re going to do, and you have an undercurrent of something that you want to say there, that the movie will reveal what it’s supposed to be about. But it’ll still be a piece of entertainment, and I think that it was a really good lesson for me to learn.

Because on “Stop‑Loss,” we made this movie that we really thought was going to be an important movie, we really wanted it to be. We wanted it to be something that really spoke to our culture, and talked about these guys that are coming back from the war and getting fucked over, and having to be sent back by a government that wasn’t treating them properly as citizens.

I think in all that, we got lost. Especially in the second act, and didn’t focus enough on just what makes a movie entertaining. The rest takes care of itself if you make a good movie. I do think movies feel like their directors. If you’re smart and intelligent and you have something to say, your movie’s going to find that tone, and you don’t have to whack people over the head with it.

It was really smart of Steven, to do this movie the way that he did, because we did have some stuff in there, the script, them driving by places where there’s for sale signs up all over the place, and Dallas is talking a lot about money, which he does in the movie. He always talks about money, and there’s even more of that.

At a certain point, it’s like the story just needs to be told. That stuff is happening in the background, and you’ll get it.

You don’t want it to be any more than subtle, I think. If it’s more than subtle, people just start rolling their eyes, and they understand what you’re trying to do.

Tomorrow in Part 4, Reid talks about the remarkable success of Magic Mike and its possible sequel.

For Part 1, go here.

For Part 2, go here.

Please stop by comments to thank Reid and ask any questions you may have.

Reid is repped by UTA.

Twitter: @reidcarolin.

Interview: Reid Carolin (“Magic Mike”) — Part 2

April 30th, 2013 by

One of the surprise hit movies of 2012 was Magic Mike starring Channing Tatum, Matthew McConaughey, and Olivia Munn, and directed by Steven Soderbergh. With a modest production budget of $7M, the film grossed $167M worldwide. The screenwriter responsible for the script is Reid Carolin.

Recently Reid and I had an extensive conversation in which we covered a whole range of subjects including his diverse creative background, the production company he and Channing Tatum have, the stunning success of Magic Mike, the craft of screenwriting, and much more.

In Part 2, Reid provides his unique insight into Magic Mike:

Scott:  Let’s talk about “Magic Mike.” I believe its origins derived… Channing was a male exotic dancer or something at 18?

Reid:  Yeah, he was.

Scott:  How did that project come into being? You guys just sitting around talking about it and going, “Wow. That just seems like a great idea for a movie”?

Reid:  It was actually the first thing. When we started our company, I said, “Look. Here’s a couple scripts that I’ve got I want to get going.” I had a script that I’d been working on for years about Leonard Peltier, who’s an American‑Indian activist.  Obviously, this political stuff. We threw all of our ideas into a hat together. We made this pact, basically, the day that we decided to start the company, we said, “Look. We’re either making a movie within the first year that we’re in business – as in actually we’re on set making it – or we shouldn’t do this. Neither of us have an interest in running a vanity production company, I don’t think you have an interest in wasting your time on something like that.”

We said, “Let’s just put our ideas into a hat and try to figure this out.” His big idea was, “Look, I have this crazy experience as a stripper. I know there’s a movie in it. I don’t know what it is, but I know it’s there.” I said that it’s definitely there. We should do something. We talked about it with Nicholas Refn first. There were so many incantations of it. One with Leslie Dixon. She’s a wonderful writer. She had this great pitch for it as a big musical thing. We talked to so many people about it, and nothing ever quite stuck. Channing talked to Steven about it during the couple of days he was up on Haywire, and Steven thought it was a good idea. I think Channing didn’t believe that Steven seriously liked it as much as he did.

When he was giving an interview about his retirement right after he first announced it a couple of years ago, or whenever that was, he said something that, in one interview, that…It was something like, “I would come out of retirement for Channing Tatum’s stripper story,” or something like that.

Chan saw it, and he emailed me, and I was like, “You need to call him,” and he’s like, “No, no, no, no, no.” I said, “No, you have to. You have to send him an email tonight, don’t wait. Do it tonight, because you just never know.” He sent him an email saying, “I know you’re probably kidding, but if you’re serious, let me know.”

Steven emailed him right back and said, “Dead serious, let’s meet up tomorrow. Let’s get a hotdog.” They met at Carney’s hotdogs. They decided to do the movie. Then Channing called me and said, “Come up to the house. We have to start outlining this.”

We outlined it while I went to London with him for a week. I transcribed all of his stories, put an outline together on two big cardboard boards, corkboards, and Steven came up to the house.

He looked at it and he was like, “Oh, OK. So you guys are really serious. This is good.” He said, “Let’s make it two characters instead of one, we’ll make a young one and an old one, and let’s kill the young one.” [laughs]

He was like “You can write that, so go, get going.” I said “Great.” Basically I didn’t sleep, and I wrote it in three and a half weeks.

Scott:  Soderbergh was the guy who came up with this idea of the older guy and the younger guy?

Reid:  Yeah. Because I had designed it as true to Channing’s experience, of being this young guy that gets wrapped into this world. Steven said “He can play young, but he’s getting a little older. Let’s make him more of a mentor character, and get it away from his exact true story, and make it more fictional.” The paradigm was really “Saturday Night Fever,” “Shampoo,” “A Star is Born.” If you smash all those movies together, and some of their tropes, you’d find a lot of that in our movie.

Scott:  The two central characters are Mike, played by Channing, who’s a self-proclaimed entrepreneur. He’s like 30 years old at that point in the movie. Then Adam, played by Alex Pettyfer, an impulsive, self‑destructive, 18‑year‑old who Mike befriends. Like you said, a mentor type relationship. How much research did you do, beyond what Channing told you, to get into this whole male stripper sub‑culture?

Reid:  I went to some shows, and had a fun time just watching these guys. For me, it’s really important because I get into the political, intellectual stuff, and I really want to think things through. Think about what makes a character interesting, what makes a subject interesting, important, and all that stuff. I’ll debate myself about stuff like that all day. What’s really nice is when you go to something like a male strip review, and you realize right away intuitively, you don’t have to think, “These guys are interesting. This is an interesting story.” Don’t try to make it too political, or topical, or anything. It is inherently entertaining, and interesting.

It’s a sub‑culture that’s full of people who are risk takers, or ego‑maniacs, or damaged in some way, shape, or form. It is people living on the extreme edge of life, and that always makes for good characters, because they have drive and they believe in something and they are true performers. That inherently is cinematic.

Scott:  The Mike-Adam relationship is obviously central to the movie, and you have an interesting dynamic at work there. With Adam, there’s this sort of innocence to experience arc, one where by the end, he thinks he’s much better off from where he started. Ultimately, it feels like after FADE OUT, it’s a path leading to perdition. With Mike, it’s an opposite dynamic, one where he moves from pretty much feeling like he’s got his shit together, working toward a future as a custom‑furniture guy. Then, ending up with something more unformed, but more hopeful, he can extract himself out of this surface‑level existence that he’s had. Does that feel accurate?

Reid:  It does. The entire thing was really to make Adam’s character a mirror for Mike to look into at the end of the movie and go, “Now, I’ve brought somebody into this world in the way that Dallas brought me in. I’m looking at myself years ago. I don’t like where I’m going or where I’m headed. I’m not sure I like who I am right now. I need to start owning up to that, stop pretending that my life is going to be fine, because it’s not. I’m not realizing my hopes and my dreams. I’m not being the person that I want to be.”

I didn’t really want to make a cautionary tale about the world of stripping, because I don’t believe in it in that way. I think you can go down a dark rabbit hole, so to speak, if you give yourself over to that world. That doesn’t mean you’re a bad person. It doesn’t mean you’re destined to be doomed or anything like that. I do think it’s tough.

I do think we can all recognize that it’s tough to make a living. If you’re a stripper, it’s tough to look at the future and go, “Hey. It looks real bright.” At some point, the candle’s going to burn out on that for you. Your body and with your age, your just not going to be able to catch up to it, and there’s no net there to catch you.

That’s what Mike’s looking at. He’s looking around him, and he’s seeing all these people who are living for now, not living for the future that they want. They’re too afraid to face it, and he’s the only one who’s like “I have to face it.”

It’s really interesting when we talk about doing a sequel, how to think about the emotional development of the character who’s already been through that, and how to not go back. There’s a lot to love about that world, and those guys, and to celebrate about it that gets lost in a cautionary tale.

Scott:  It sounds like perhaps your instincts there are not making it a cautionary tale. Soderbergh says “Well, let’s have one guy die. The young guy is going to die.” By the end of the movie, Adam actually comes out feeling like he’s in a better place. He’s going to have an equity position in this new club in Miami. Was that an intentional move on the part of you guys to say “OK, this pulls it back from that cautionary tale?”

Reid:  Yeah. There’s two reasons. One, you kill Brooke’s little brother, and it’s so intense, it’s really hard to have a love story develop in that circumstance. I think if Adam had died, that’s a lot to recover from quickly, for him, for her, so that’s one reason. The other is not to make it so much of a cautionary tale, but say “Look. He’s a kid, he’s 19, he’s going to take an equity position in this thing. He’s going to go down there, it might work out. You never know.” The tone might insinuate that maybe it won’t, but you have no idea.

Maybe he’ll have his own process just like Mike, where at some point he’ll get out of it, and it won’t be for him anymore. We didn’t want to speculate either way. We didn’t want to kill him because we also wanted to leave room for that development of that character.

Tomorrow in Part 3, Reid goes into more depth about the creative process on the movie Magic Mike.

For Part 1, go here.

Please stop by comments to thank Reid and ask any questions you may have.

Reid is repped by UTA.

Twitter: @reidcarolin.

Interview: Reid Carolin (“Magic Mike”) — Part 1

April 29th, 2013 by

One of the surprise hit movies of 2012 was Magic Mike starring Channing Tatum, Matthew McConaughey, and Olivia Munn, and directed by Steven Soderbergh. With a modest production budget of $7M, the film grossed $167M worldwide. The screenwriter responsible for the script is Reid Carolin.

Recently Reid and I had an extensive conversation in which we covered a whole range of subjects including his diverse creative background, the production company he and Channing Tatum have, the stunning success of Magic Mike, the craft of screenwriting, and much more.

In Part 1, Reid talks about his educational background and his first movie Stop-Loss on which he was an associate producer:

Scott:  All right, let’s start with the whole education thing. Harvard undergrad, NYU for film directing.

Reid:  Indeed. I only went to NYU for about three‑quarters of a semester because I dropped out. I went to Harvard for undergraduate, and then I went to NYU after I had developed a script with Kimberly Peirce. It sold right in the middle of my first semester there, so I dropped out and we went and made it.

Scott:  That was “Stop‑Loss?”

Reid:  Indeed, that was the first thing I’ve ever worked on in the business.

Scott:  Let’s just jump back a bit. At what point did you catch the movie bug?

Reid:  Oh, man, when I was really young. Even still to this day my mother watches two movies before she goes to sleep at night. It’s like everyone goes to sleep, and she’s up watching old movies, and she was… Her and her mom, my grandmother, took me to movies since I was a kid. All the time we’d go. Even my mom, I don’t know how old I was when these movies came out, but 14, 15 years old, she’s like, “Oh, let’s go see “Sleepers” in the theater.” Or, “Hey, this movie “Seven” came out. Let’s go see it.”

She would take me to everything and it was intuitive to me after probably I was 10 or 11 years old, when I said, “I have to do this.” Probably after I saw “Jurassic Park” or something like that. [laughs]

Scott:  Did you study film at Harvard?

Reid:  I did, yeah. I don’t know what studying film at Harvard means. I really loved their documentary department, and that’s within this thing called “Visual Environment and Environmental Studies” which is the degree that I ultimately got. They have this weird department that you have to apply to be into, and it’s for people who are pre‑architecture, fine arts, things like that. Then they have this small film division in the basement of the building. They have all these old Steinbeck editing suites, and stuff like that. Rob Moss, and Ross McElwee were these two incredible documentary filmmakers that run that.

You have these small classes with them so I got to sit there, and make movies with these guys who were my heroes of documentary film making, and then also Hal Hartley. I did a whole seminar with Hal, where he helped me make my first short. Outside of that, film studies at Harvard is all theoretical. Unless you’re in those classes where you’re actually practicing with those directors, and they’re quite small, where you’re basically out making stuff.

They give you a camera, and you just go do whatever. If you’re purely studying film theory there, which I tried not to do, it’s a total theoretical thing. I couldn’t get into it. It’s all film criticism stuff, so I tried to divert away from that, and divert into just the making stuff part of it.

Scott:  Where did you learn screenwriting then?

Reid:  It was really Kimberly Pierce. I was writing in college, but when I go back and look at that stuff, what I love about it, is I felt like there were no boundaries to what I could write, and how I could write it. It was all intuitive. Some of the stuff, I can look back on it, and say “That’s my most creative work.” I want to go back, and figure out a way to manifest it into something that could actually be made for a populace audience. I really learned it from working with Kim, because she so adheres to traditional Greek structure, so she really put me through a boot camp about what that is. I think in some ways that regimented my thinking a little bit more, so I’ve had to break out of it. In other ways, that is what really taught me how to write for an audience, and not just to write for myself. I think that’s an important distinction.

They don’t teach you that in school…not in my school. I’m sure they teach it at USC and UCLA, places like that. NYU, I had a really good screenwriting teacher, but I just didn’t have a chance to really learn from her.

At Harvard, that didn’t really exist. There wasn’t anyone that really taught you how to do that. It was more experimental filmmaking, film criticism, where does a film fit in the history of moviemaking, which is stuff that I’m not really…I don’t want to be that concerned about that.

Scott:  When you talk about Greek structure, you mean Aristotle’s “Poetics”.

Reid:  Exactly. That’s the book that, I’ll go back and read that every year, at least, on a plane ride or something. Kim, when I first met her, the first night, she gave me a list of all her favorite books about storytelling, and she said, “Read these, and when you’re done reading them, then we can have conversations.” I said, “OK, great.” I went off and read them. She indoctrinated me into how to think about story.

Scott:  Do you remember what some of those titles were?

Reid:  Yeah. The “Poetics” is really the one that really stood out. “On Directing” by Kazan, just his book about directing, where he talks about stories, another favorite of mine. She gave me, now I’m blanking on the title, but this book by Groucho Marx, or it was his essays. I loved that. It was none of the stuff like McKee…I’ve read all that stuff, and “Save the Cat,” and all that. She was more interested in either transcripts of speeches or books by directors and screenwriters talking about their craft. When she was at Columbia, she digested all this stuff. I’ve actually got the list somewhere. The stuff that I still keep with me is the “Poetics” and “On Directing.” I just love that book. I’m a big Kazan fan.

Scott:  Yeah, I’ve got both of them right here in my office.

Reid:  Oh, really? That book…I know he was a son of a bitch, but oh man, that guy…he’s a very, very smart thinker about his craft.

Scott:  So you’re at NYU. You’re writing this script “Stop‑Loss,” it sells, then it’s bye‑bye MFA, hello, Hollywood.

Reid:  Yeah, it was tough, because I had…Kim and I had developed this. Mark Richard, who’s a wonderful short story/novelist came in and really wrote the script, and we developed it with him. When they finally sold it and made the deal, I became a producer on the project. Part of me said, “OK…” I was down there working on the script every day, but I thought, “Should I be directing and writing my own stuff at school, or should I take this opportunity to go down there and work on this thing, where I’d really be able to sit and watch other people do it every day? What’s the better choice? I don’t know if there is a better choice.

I just chose that because I had invested so much time in creating that story that it felt like, even if I wasn’t directing and writing it and everything myself, it was a good opportunity to see how it all worked.

Still to this day, part of me goes, “I wonder what I would have done had I stayed in school and started just making things on my own. Would I have found my way back to where I’m at now?” But I would never second‑guess the choice, because that’s where I met Channing [Tatum], who’s my partner, and Joe Gordon‑Levitt, and all the other people that have become my best friends and collaborators in the business, so it was good for that reason.

Scott:  “Stop‑Loss,” a 2008 Paramount movie about a soldier who returns from his completed tour of duty in Iraq only to be ordered back to the field of duty. You were technically listed as associate producer on that. What was the nature of your involvement in that project beyond the script phase?

Reid:  I pretty much did everything on that movie. I shot some scenes and directed some…They have these non‑traditional video sequences in the film that were supposedly shot by the soldiers while they’re at war. We use this as a device to go back into their experience. I would shoot those, operate the camera. While the other things were going on, we literally dressed the guys up in costume. I’d go, “Let’s not wait in the green room anymore, the trailer. Let’s go out and shoot some stuff in the streets. That’ll be fun.”

That’s how I developed relationships with Channing and Joe and everybody else. We could be making this stuff on the side while the other stuff was being shot. There were so many people constantly around them in that movie. It was the nature of it being an ensemble. Also, a bunch of young guys who were my age and was a fun environment.

I was doing that. I was sitting there, re‑writing scenes, printing them out, bringing them to the actor. During the scene, we had a constantly evolving script. Kim likes to listen to the actors as they’re going along, re‑write as you go. I was doing a lot of that.

That was a really intense, long, tough production. I got thrown into the fire on every aspect of it. It was a great learning experience. I pretty much had my hand in every aspect of it.

Scott:  That’s where you met Channing?

Reid:  Yeah, exactly.

Scott:  How soon after that did you and Channing create your production company?

Reid:   We started it a while after. We stayed friends after that movie and we hung out a lot, and we talked a lot. After that movie was done, I moved to New York, moved back to New York. I was doing some work for Amy Powell, who’s the Senior Vice President of Interactive Marketing, Digital Marketing at Paramount.

She hired me because I happened to go to school with the kids that created Facebook, and I was kind of…just because I was kind of into that stuff at that time, she hired me to run some digital campaigns for them, as they were just trying to get into that business. I moved to New York, I did some work for them, tried to figure out what the next thing would be.

I decided actually to go to Rwanda and make a documentary with Deborah Scranton, an incredible documentary filmmaker who I had met during the promotion of “Stop‑Loss,” and so I did that. Then after that is when Channing and I started our company. As I was editing that movie, we decided to do our thing.

Scott:  Let’s talk about that documentary, “Earth Made of Glass”. That’s about France’s role in the Rwanda genocide?

Reid:  Indeed, yes. Actually, really, the core story is, it’s about a genocide survivor whose entire family was murdered during the genocide. 15 years later, he never knew what happened, or he never had closure, or figured out who the killers were, et cetera. 15 years later, he goes back and he finds the killer of his father and figures out what the story of how his father was killed was, and we end up finding the place where he was killed and digging up the bones and having a proper funeral for him. As we’re telling that micro story, we’re also telling the macro story about…We’re following the president of the country, Paul Kagame, and why not only did the genocide take place, but what is the common knowledge about why it took place, and really what happened behind the scenes in order for that many people to turn on each other and start killing each other.

There’s got to be something more than just, “We’re all upset because you’re Hutus and you’re Tutsis,” and that’s what the macro story was. It was investigating who’s inciting this incident, and why was our main character, Jean‑Pierre’s family killed, and what were the events, politically speaking, that contributed to that?

We were trying to tell these two interweaving narratives, macro and micro, about the Rwandan genocide. It’s probably the best thing I’ll ever work on, to be honest. It’s a great movie, really well structured, incredible characters, and that movie magic that only happens once in a lifetime when you have a character that goes through something on camera like our main character did.

The only trouble is that because it’s about Rwanda, it’s really tough to find an audience. We were lucky to be able to sell it to HBO. I love the documentary business. It’s just such a tough business to get by in.

Scott:  “Stop‑Loss,” “Earth Made of Glass”. Is it fair to say you have political interests?

Reid:  Definitely. Most of the movies that I love…I love a lot of movies. But most of the movies that I find have a lasting impact on culture are not necessarily political movies, but they’re movies that are reacting to our world. For me, I care less about whether it’s political or whether it’s taking a side, but I care more about whether it’s speaking to something worth thinking about or talking about as a culture.

I really do believe that it’s a responsibility of the art form, at least it used to be. I think some people feel that movies are diminishing in importance, as far as their cultural relevance is concerned, but I still believe there is a responsibility to push for stories that are reacting to things that are going on in our world.

Like with the Rwandan genocide, we were rehashing something that happened 15 years ago, but we felt like we were bringing new information to the table. As far as a documentary is concerned, it’s hard to find an audience anyway, so we decided, “Screw it. The story’s too good. If we find an audience, great. If not, we still have to do this.”

Tomorrow in Part 2, Reid provides his unique insight into Magic Mike.

Please stop by comments to thank Reid and ask any questions you may have.

Reid is repped by UTA.

Twitter: @reidcarolin.

10 Screenwriters to Watch (2012)

November 29th, 2012 by

For the last 14 years, Variety has put an annual spotlight on 10 screenwriters to watch. Here are this year’s writers:

Patrick Aison

Reid Carolin

Derek Connolly

Katie Dippold

Bill Dubuque

Rajiv Joseph & Scott Rothman

Kelly Marcel

Ted Melfi

Chris Terrio

Ken Scott

For the other annual Variety lists I’ve covered since GITS started:

2008

2009

2010

2011